Coptic Christian and Muslim leaders of Southern California stand together to condemn violent protests

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A Coptic Christian bishop stood with a Muslim leader and other religious figures Monday at Los Angeles City Hall to denounce the violent protests throughout the Islamic world in recent days.

Bishop Serapion, Bishop of the Coptic Christian Diocese of Los Angeles, and Maher Hathout, Senior Advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council, issued a joint statement that condemned "desecration directed at any religion, namely the anti-Muslim film 'Innocence of Muslims.'"

They also condemned any violent reaction to the film and the loss of innocent lives, and they offered condolences to the families of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans killed almost a week ago in Benghazi, Libya. Finally, they strongly condemned any attacks against religious communities, Copts or Muslims in particular, in Egypt and the United States.

"Living in the United States and inspired by its values, we are capable of a more reasonable approach that living in a free society demands of us," said Bishop Serapion, who has headed the Coptic Christian Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California, and Hawaii since 1995.

"We cannot allow the actions of a few deceived fanatical individuals to define our communities," Bishop Serapion added.

Hathout called the film "a parasite on the noble concept of freedom of speech.

"This is hate speech and it is instigation kind of speech," he said. "Nonetheless, people talk, and if we don't like what they say, we go to the teachings of our Prophet: when an ignorant person targets you, say 'peace' and leave."

Bishop Serapion said that so far, he has heard of no direct threats to the church in his diocese.

The man allegedly behind the "Innocence of Muslims" film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is reportedly in hiding with his family.

"If he's hiding from us, he's wrong," Maher Hathout said. "We don't go after people for what they say."

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